Written by Peter Nicieja on November 6, 2020
“Frisson” has to be one of my favorite words in the English language. Not only because the word itself sounds epic when it’s said (frēˈsôn), but also because it describes the feeling of chills you get when listening to your favorite music.
We’ve all been there. That tingle or chill that might cause your arm hairs to stand up and give you a boost of excitement. This could come from an impressive vocal line, a rockin’ instrumental solo, or even from just a few well-placed notes.
So why does this happen? Researchers have found specific electrical activity in the orbitofrontal cortex when music lovers experience a chill. Not a neuroscience major? Me neither. But that’s the region of the brain that involves emotional processing. More activity in the supplemental area and the right temporal lobe, which handles our auditory processing on the right side of the brain, was also found.
All those areas work together to help us process music and release dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
People seem to have different sensitivities to frisson. I even know a friend who gets it every other song she listens to for the entire duration of the song. For me, it’s a little more rare and usually comes from particular moments in songs but the feeling is thrilling.
Recently, the rhythmic energy of Harry Styles’ Golden gives me all the tingles.
If you’re still not sure what this feels like, maybe the video below can help.